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Best Practices for working in and maintaining a Dry Lab

Labs are primarily characterised by the type of work that is undertaken in them. If that work does not include liquid handling and is more focused on computational work or heavy machinery, then you are working in a dry lab. Dry labs occur in many disciplines, including biology, computer sciences and engineering. There are some things to be aware of when it comes to working in dry labs. Here are some important considerations for usage and maintenance of dry labs.

Taking care of the not-so-obvious hazards

Any lab comes with hazards. Ordinarily, the hazards you may encounter in dry labs are vastly different from those in wet labs – and oftentimes, they are not obvious to first-time users.

Common hazards in dry labs depend on the specific discipline, but can range from trip and fall hazards to more long-term hazards related to ergonomics. Do not underestimate the impact of workstation ergonomics – a poorly set up workspace can seriously harm you in the long run, so make sure to get set up right.

Also, when we discuss hazards, we aren’t just referring to hazards to you; your work’s safety is also of concern. For example…

If you are working in a bioinformatics lab, your work needs to be safeguarded by regular, centralised backups that are well-maintained.

You may be working in the lab looking at samples. These need to also be protected in their storage, so that the possibility of their contamination through outside influences is eliminated or at least minimised.

Maintaining a dry lab

Maintaining a lab will usually come down to the users themselves. In general, a dry lab takes care of itself, as long as standard maintenance is done as you go. This includes equipment upkeep, regular cleaning and keeping computational equipment up to date.

a. Be pragmatic

First and foremost, use your common sense.

  • Put things away.
  • Label your material.
  • Don’t break equipment. 

b. Be aware of your specific requirements

As with all labs, your specific requirements will dictate your maintenance routine. For example...

If you are working in a bioinformatics lab accessing a high-powered computing cluster, you will need to make sure that your hardware and software are up to date, so as not to bottleneck your processes. 

c. Ensure all relevant people know of updates

Just keep in mind that whatever updates you make have to be run by whoever runs the lab, so that users of shared equipment are aware of updates.

d. Ensure service contracts are in order

In more specialised cases where expensive equipment like lasers or heavy equipment is involved, make sure that external service contracts are in place and up to date, as you’re unlikely to be able to service these yourself.


Dry labs are not an unusual workplace, but aren’t the kind of lab that spring to mind when you first hear ‘lab’. There may not be test tubes of colourful liquids or steaming flasks, but the science is no less exciting. While keeping you productive, maintaining your workplace is also an essential part of being a good colleague. Stay safe, stay organised, and the science will flow… for everyone!


Read previous/first in series: Best Practices for working in and maintaining a Wet Lab

Read next (third/final) in series: What to keep in mind when Setting up a Research Lab


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